Monday, 22 February 2016

Convinced Saudi atheists

I read this a long while back and I'm still not sure whether I'm more encouraged by the figures for how well secularism is doing, against all odds, in the Middle East, or exasperated that country that enshrines freedom of speech and religion in its constitution and is  - in some ways - becoming measurably more tolerant and inclusive had only the same percentage of convinced non-believers as an authoritarian hellhole that employs religious police to enforce piety:
The Arab Spring may have stalled, if not receded, but when it comes to religious beliefs and attitudes, a generational dynamic is at play. Large numbers of individuals are tilting away from the rote religiosity Westerners reflexively associate with the Arab world. In 2012, a wide-ranging WIN/Gallup International poll found that 5 percent of Saudi citizens—more than a million people—self-identify as “convinced atheists,” the same percentage as in the United States. Nineteen percent of Saudis—almost six million people—think of themselves as “not a religious person.” (In Italy, the figure is 15 percent.) … the percentage of people who express some measure of religious doubt is higher in the Arab world (22 percent) than in South Asia (17 percent) and Latin America (16 percent). … These numbers are even more striking considering that many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Yemen, uphold the sharia rule punishing apostasy with death. 
 Russ Wellen, quoting Ahmed Benchemsi in the New Republic.

On balance, I'm more encouraged than exasperated - it's better to know that oppression is breeding resistance in the Middle East and that one fewer excuse for unfairness exists in the USA than it would be to know that a few more Americans found the truth claims of religion as unconvincing as I do.
"There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God."